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Compassionate Care (NHS)

Volume 571: debated on Tuesday 26 November 2013

Last week, we published a full response to the Mid-Staffs public inquiry and set out our ambition to transform the quality of compassionate care in the NHS. We have already put in place a robust new inspection regime and measures to make it easier for doctors and nurses to speak out when they are concerned about standards of care or safety.

Compassionate care goes right through from surgeons to GPs. Will my right hon. Friend comment on evidence that epileptic women of child-bearing age are not being shown the compassion necessary during pregnancy from their GPs or neurologists and are not having the risks of taking their epilepsy medication outlined to them? To date, such medication has caused more than 20,000 birth defects.

I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting this important issue. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency regularly reviews the evidence relating to anti-epileptic drug use, particularly sodium valproate products, and we check what information is available to doctors so that it can be passed on to patients. I am concerned about the issue my hon. Friend raises, so I have asked NHS England’s national director of patient safety, Dr Mike Durkin, to look into it carefully and get back to me.

New York has raised the age for buying tobacco products to 21. As a public health care policy, has the Department considered that matter?

As the hon. Gentleman will know, we are constantly reviewing all policies that could reduce tobacco use among young people. Smoking is the No. 1 killer, so dealing with it would be the best way of reducing this country’s premature mortality rates, which are far too high.

23. Does the Secretary of State agree that transparency is critical in improving hospital standards and that, following the Government’s latest measures in response to the Francis report, the health cover-ups by the previous Government will never be allowed to happen again? (901280)

The Labour party does not like to hear this, but the reality is that micro-managing the NHS through top-down targets failed to deal with the problems of compassionate care. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that the best way to deal with this is through total transparency, so that when we are sure there is a problem, the public find out about it quickly and it is dealt with quickly.

Compassionate care must be central to the NHS. The Health Minister in Northern Ireland has launched “Quality 2020”, a strategy that is intended to improve care in Northern Ireland. What discussions has the Secretary of State had with the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Health Minister about this issue?

We are in close touch with all the devolved Administrations about the changes that we are making in the NHS in England, and, interestingly, we are experiencing different levels of engagement. We have had very good discussions with the Northern Ireland Health Minister about some of the changes, but those in Wales are still refusing to commission a Keogh report on excess deaths, which I think shows that Labour in Wales has not learnt the lessons of transparency.